‘HELLS GATES 38’ READY TO RISE FOR FIRST RUNNING
For a race that’s never been held, the Shaw and Partners Hells Gates 38 already feels like a staple on the racing calendar.
Australia is a powerhouse downwind nation, but it doesn’t boast an established long-distance race like so many others around the globe.
That will change in four weeks time, when paddlers race past the Hells Gates and into the picturesque Noosa Beach on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast on June 4.
After state border restrictions forced the cancellation of the race in 2021, the final countdown to the inaugural running is now on.
“We’re really excited now, that after an 18 month plus lead-up, that we have the opportunity to put the event on for the first time,” race director Chris Price says.
“Even though we didn’t actually deliver the event last year, it feels like we effectively did, having gone through the process getting everything ready to press play.”
The 38-kilometre race is the fifth round of the Australian Ocean Racing Series – but stands alone with the challenge it presents.
Competitors will paddle from Mooloolaba to Noosa regardless of wind direction – presenting a test of both endurance and mental strength.
“I’ve put in an order with the big fella for a 15 knot south-easterly on the morning of the race, so we have our fingers crossed,” Price laughs.
“Traditionally we’re more likely to have the wind blowing south-east in June then where we were sitting last year.
“Regardless of what it is on the day, it will be a special feeling standing on the beach at Mooloolaba staring north at the headland on the horizon.
“To paddle that course, get around the point and onto the sand at Noosa and acknowledge the challenge that we got through – in a race sense or just the distance – it will be really cool.”
It may read as a daunting challenge, but the reception from the paddling community has been strong.
The field will feature competitors from around the country – and even overseas – along with some of the sport’s biggest names, like two-time World Champion Cory Hill.
Price expects around 200 paddlers to take on the challenge.
“It’s been really cool,” he says.
“I think the paddling community were aware of and has acknowledged the work that went into trying to get it off the ground last year.
“It’s really picked up from there, and the momentum continues to grow.”
This year, entrants are able to arrange for a support boat to accompany them down the course.
It’s just one of the measures that has been put in place to attract as many paddlers as possible.
And even before it’s held for the first time, he believes its potential for longevity is already on show.
“It feels like the paddlers, as the sport evolves, are looking for a new challenge and a new destination for that. This race ticks that box.”